The moment I tell people I am a yoga teacher, I’m hit with tons of misbeliefs about yoga like ‘I’m not flexible enough for yoga,’ ‘I suck at yoga,’ ‘I’m way too out of shape to get on the mat,’ ‘I’m not vegetarian,’ ‘But I’m not very spiritual,’ ‘Im too fat,’ ‘I can’t even touch my toes’ or, my personal favorite, ‘I can’t afford a good mat or the cute yoga pants.’
I call B.S. on ALL of that.
The sad thing is many of us let these misbeliefs and assumptions about yoga keep us off the mat. Yoga is not about being perfect. Yoga is about meeting yourself where you are, accepting your imperfections, and stepping into personal growth.
What I've Learned About Yoga
As a new yoga teacher, I can tell you one of the most important things I have learned about yoga so far is this:
Yoga shows up in so many different shapes and sizes, times, places, on and off the mat.
And as a dedicated and devoted yogi, I can openly admit that:
- I don’t get on my mat everyday.
- Although I consider myself in shape and somewhat flexible, there are some postures that just don’t feel good in my body - and that’s ok. I modify constantly.
- My first mat was from a drug store - and I still practice on it from time to time. I’m sentimental like that.
- I eat meat.
- I often practice to Bruce Springsteen, XX, TuPac or the occasional country hit (in my underwear, in my living room).
Yoga doesn’t have to look a certain way! First of all, it’s called a practice for a reason. Second, it’s your practice — you get to choose what it looks like.
How to Practice Yoga Off the Mat
Trust me, you don’t always need your mat to practice yoga. So if you can’t make it to your mat (or don’t want to) here are 5 ways to practice anyway:
1. Begin your day by setting a ‘sankalpa’ (a sacred intention, vow or desire).
Before your feet even hit the floor, set an intention. A good way to do this is to ask your body and mind what it needs. At the end of the day, what will your body and mind thank you for?
It’s important to set your intention right when you wake up when your mind has not yet been clouded with the endless tasks and to-do lists for the day. Use it throughout the day when it starts to feel a little chaotic.
2. Be kind (ahimsa - non-violence).
Always start with yourself. If you are an asshole to yourself, you are most likely an asshole to other people. And let’s face it, no one likes an asshole.
So what does being kind to yourself look like? Stopping to check in with yourself before you say yes? Going for a swim? Telling yourself ‘I love you?’ Getting on your mat? Trying something new? Remember, you get to choose - you can be a jerk or you can be a light. Please, always choose the latter.
3. Breathe (pranayama).
Speaking of, breathing is one of the kindest things you can do for your body. Don’t underestimate the power of your breath. If you really think about it, breathing is a sacred experience. It should be cherished - your life literally depends on it.
Stop at least one time a day to breathe intentionally for 1-5 minutes.
4. Fuel your body with high vibrational meals (saucha - purity).
Just like breath is our life force, food is our energy. Food has the ability to raise your cholesterol, create brain fog, fatigue, acne, and belly fat, to name a few. Or, food has the ability to give you vitality, clarity and focus, balance your pH, level out blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and hell, maybe even cure some illnesses - all by what we choose to put into our bodies.
What we put into our bodies often influences other decisions we make, so honor the vessel. It is, in fact, the only one you will ever have.
5. Keep your space organized (aparigraha - non-possessiveness).
Clutter creates chaos. A messy outer world often means a cluttered and messy inner world. We function at a higher level when our space is clean and workable. Think simple, and start small.
Let go of what no longer serves you. That sweater you haven’t worn in 3 years? Toss it. That belief that getting health is too hard? Let it go. The next time you think you absolutely need something, think twice.
So the next time you catch yourself coming up with a million different excuses to not get on your mat, remember that yoga is a diverse, unique and personal practice - and it’s accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere.